When purist sports car makers such as Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and even the holy grail of all luxury, which is Rolls Royce makes SUVs one has to take heed and perhaps even reinterpret the very definition of what sports car brands are designed to do.
For Maserati, which launched in 1963 with naming its cars after the world’s most famous winds such as the Mistral, the Ghibli, and others, the Levante which first launched in 2016 is different. For starters it’s an SUV and its name purportedly refers to a Mediterranean wind that can go from being calm to a gale at the snap of a finger.
The Maserati is and has been known for its rich Italian heritage and sleek designs that lean more towards art than engineering. Step inside the new Levante and there's no disappointment because it's all Maserati, which is to say that its interiors exude understated but luxurious contours in high-end leather and chrome, controls and buttons that are more classic than new-age and a sense of space that feels more like in a private jet plane than an SUV.
The Levante I drove doesn't have the big Trofeo engine but the twin turbo V6 still has ample grunt to get the car up and off the ground at speeds that go from 0 to 100kmh in 6 seconds which is impressive for any car, SUV or not. But it's not just the power or speed that's impressive, it's the way the vehicle handles and drives which makes one forget one is in an SUV. At the driver's seat, the sound is robust, the suspension is comfy, the brakes handle capably.
The Maserati which has now come to be owned by the Stellantis (formerly Fiat Group) which also owned Ferrari before it went public) is not for everyone. If a Bollywood star or athlete would go for a Lamborghini, the Maserati would be the first choice of the discerning corporate tycoon.
This Levante engine is a version with a mild hybrid system that assists a 2-liter turbo system and generates around 330 bhp. Not as shatteringly quick as some of its competitors but does one really speed too much on highways at home?
Given the coupé-like exterior, the rest of the design of the car is seamless with the front end being pretty aggressive with its large grille that is flanked on both sides with stylishly neat air intakes.
Inside the design is clean, elegant, and very premium with padded leather swaddling everything, Big panel roof, soft close doors, and the Trident logo is embroidered all across the car's head rests reminding you this is a special car every single time you sit in it.
Three exclusive new trims have been introduced as part of the new Levante which include the new GT, Modena and Trofeo. While Maserati has changed ownership several times in its life, it's held on to tradition. Yet don't mistake Maserati for being too stuck in the past.
The car features an intelligent sensor paired with a signal analysis system that calculates pollution levels and cleanses the cabin ––– so welcome and needed in major metro cities across India. There’s other ADAS features that include traffic sign recognition, lane assist warnings, lane departure warning systems and more.
Driving the Levante is supremely smooth and easy with its 8-speed automatic gear shift but the second one punches the accelerator the SUV transforms with an almost bipolar-like taunt that tests the driver to push the envelope harder. The paddle-shifts assist getting the Levante into a racier mode and the light front-engine endows this SUV with impressive driving dynamics even across corners and tight bends.
There's little body roll when driven hard and not much swinging even for a large car that weighs in at over 2,000 kilos.
On the highway it's sufficiently fast, in little lanes it manages capably, and if you want to make an entrance at a wedding, art gallery opening or fashion show, the Maserati Levante is a versatile choice and a car with a sense of occasion.
Above all else there’s no getting away that the Maserati is a badge that evokes patrician blue-bloodedness in the world of sports cars. Right from the trident logo on the bonnet which is a nod to the fountain of Neptune in its original headquarters Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore to the drive to never separate art from life –– the Levante is a great example of how space and looks have not been compromised for performance, something which other car companies have done in the past. Ultimately of course the car is a head turner for one simple fact: there aren't very many Maseratis on the road.
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